by Ginny Rudloff
Ginny is a retired Prevention Coordinator for Cherish All Children and member of Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church.
"Love born of faith in Jesus Christ calls us all to attend to, discuss, resist, and reject the system of sexual exploitation." (ELCA Message on Commercial Sexual Exploitation, pg. 1)
What was your childhood like? Mine was pretty happy. I grew up on a farm with four siblings and lots of cousins to fill my days. It was a time of exploration, joy, and growth. There were no major bumps in the road; just the occasional spats with my siblings, heated arguments with my parents about short skirts and independence, and lots of love.
Life is not like that for every child. Many live in fear and insecurity, conditions that make them vulnerable to sex traffickers. The Polaris Project, which runs the National Trafficking Hotline tells us, "Traffickers recognize and take advantage of people who are vulnerable in certain ways. There are several factors that may make a child vulnerable to sex trafficking including having an unstable living situation, having a history of domestic or sexual abuse, being frequent runaways, being involved in the juvenile justice or foster care systems, experiencing poverty or financial need, and/or dealing with addiction.”
Traffickers look for these vulnerabilities and groom individual victims for sexual exploitation. Cherish All Children acts with congregations to educate, equip, and engage them to prevent child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
At Lake Nokomis Lutheran, members have used the “Prayers for Cherishing Children” to pray daily for the safety and well-being of youth. One member told me that she carried a list of the children and youth in our congregation in her workbag. While she waited for the light rail each morning, she prayed for a few children each day as she moved through the list. Our congregation ha also prayed for children on their baptismal anniversaries each week in the Prayers of the People, reminding them that we love them, cry with them in their sadness, and rejoice in their delights.
We have also hosted community discussions on ending the demand for trafficking, and have fostered conversations in our Faith and Life Conversations, our youth groups, and other small gatherings. Cherish All Children has provided resources to equip us for protecting our youth and guiding them to recognize some of the tactics traffickers use to groom and exploit children.
When a coalition of organizations working to prevent trafficking advocated for the passage of Safe Harbor legislation, Cherish All Children urged congregations to join community and faith groups to support this sea-changing legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. It has had a profound effect on trafficked youth who saw no hope in their future.
Please join the Faith and Life Conversation on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 9:15 a.m., with Joy McElroy of Cherish All Children. We can all learn how to help our youth stay safe online while engaging in conversations with adults and peers about risk and prevention. I am personally thankful to Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church for making a difference by supporting and participating in this tiny little organization with a huge vision. We are active advocates for prevention!